In the current debate about UK austerity, what’s missing from the choice (not the fake choice between austerity and no austerity, but the hard choice between Social and Economic austerity) are two important other options (Productivity improvements and Philanthropy).
To elaborate, the current debate about austerity should be about the mix of four things:
(1) Social austerity – realisable tax rises for some or all current UK tax payers). Of course, history shows us that raising taxes encourages tax avoidance and discourages incentive to work harder.
(2) Economic austerity – alleviating current austerity through borrowing to burden future citizens with greater austerity.
(3) Productivity improvements – workers choosing (through a combination of after-hours study and after-hours volunteering?) to up-skill, to raise their productivity to ultimately alleviate austerity. When we change our expectations, build on small successes to boost our confidence and reframe current problems in a different way using personal flexibility, then there is every chance to better ourselves. If the future is about portfolio careers, and in the age of smart machines, ‘keeping our skin in the game’ through clever design, then up-skilling starts today. After all, process automation and machine learning won’t wait for us, but proceeds at its own pace. A final question about labour productivity at the national level. Which is better – fewer people employed but them generating higher average labour productivity (the French model, relative to the UK model) or, more people employed but with lower average labour productivity (the UK model, relative to the French model).
(4) Philanthropy – particularly high-net-worth individuals forming consortiums, to alleviate UK social deprivation through charitable foundation activity.
The best solution will probably come from a better combination of all four things.
One great opportunity with philanthropy is developing ‘hospital charities’ to build city hospitals that are entirely charity-funded and can take some ongoing pressure off the NHS, care homes and private hospitals. Such hospitals could offer a more selective range of treatments (target elective-surgeries with long waiting lists?), than the NHS.
Food for thought?
If Moore’s Law will continue for the foreseeable future, does it have a cousin keeping pace with it – the growing number of people unable to understand how technology works?
Are the people who care about technology advances, steadily becoming confined to just two groups only – those who will profit from them (designers and investors) and those who benefit from them by paying across their hard-earned cash (customers)? If so, how do governments socialise the advances of technology, so we all understand and care? Is there a political party out there campaigning for this?
A government that lets its State school infrastructure crumble (including in schools recently rated Outstanding by Ofsted), but raises the bar on academic outputs, is simply trying to achieve an education policy goal in spite of itself. Crazy or crazy?
A government that chooses to cut back on education funding, should at least be making grants available to improve income diversification – to upskill staff in effective philanthropic and corporate fundraising.
A government that wants improved student behaviour in schools, would be wise to demonstrate it cares about such students, by investing in the infrastructure that supports their teaching.
If government agencies aren’t practising continuous improvement in granular and transparent reporting of how our taxes are actually spend, why don’t they instead reduce the taxes imposed on us?
Every pound of public money mis-managed or squandered on poor policy outcomes is a pound that could have gone on paying off the national debt instead. Why is this statement not on every government agency computer screen saver, in every public sector meeting room, in every public sector manager’s work plan and on every government agency website landing page?
If tax payers already fund government departments to manage public affairs effectively and efficiently, why are politicians so keen to set up ‘special public enquiries’ at an additional cost to the taxpayer?